In the final leg of the 2008 Asian Mile Challenge, the Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen run today at Tokyo Racecourse, 2007 Derby winning Japanese filly Vodka broke through for her first win in over a year with a devastating performance to win by 3 -1/2 lengths.
Jockey Yasunari Iwata was riding Vodka for the first time as previous jockey Yutaka Take was booked to ride Suzuka Phoenix in the race. He rode the horse perfectly on a track that had been favorable to leaders and horses on the inside, as he pushed her out of the gates to settle down just behind the leaders. In an interview after the race, he explained he had been willing to lead if necessary, but expected leader Kongo Rikishio was pushed along to keep the lead, and Vodka settled in behind him in 3rd or 4th position. Top Hong Kong jockey Douglas Whyte pushed Hong Kong galloper Armada in the early stages to get across from barrier 16 and sit outside the leader, while outsider Jolly Dance sat outside Vodka.
As the field entered the final straight, Kongo Rikishio still had a handy lead, and Whyte was getting anxious on Armada, pushing him along to try and catch the leader. But when Iwata pulled Vodka around the heels of the leader with about 300m to go, she shot away from the field to open a break of around 4 lengths, and the race was all over. Armada got past Kongo Rikishio who battled on well, and Air Shady and Suzuka Phoenix were making up plenty of ground on the outside of the track, but in the final 100m outsider Eishin Dover poked through the center of the field to grab 3rd behind Armada who fought on very well for 2nd.
Vodka was 3-1/2 lengths ahead of Armada at the finish, and she passed the line in a time of 1:32.7. Air Shady grabbed 4th ahead of Suzuka Phoenix and early leader Kongo Rikishio finished 6th. 2006 winner Bullish Luck ran about in the straight (he finished 14th) which seemed to cause a few problems for other runners including the favored Good Ba Ba and Super Hornet, with Good Ba Ba eventually being pulled up 2nd last. Super Hornet finished on fairly for 8th which could be considered a respectable result after missing the start and experiencing some interference in the straight, but the day belonged to Vodka.
Vodka was bred by owner Yuzo Tanimizu at his Country Bokujo, and is trained by top Japanese trainer Katsuhiko Sumii.
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